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Dec 12, 2007 11:34 AM

Best Place to Buy Vintage Port in Boston??

I'm looking to buy a nice bottle of port for an English person - single quinta vintage, like Grahmes Malvados. He likes a rich "plummy" style.
Looking for price range $40-70.
I'd need the shop to be in Boston, or near T.
I've tried Martinghetti's (sp) in North End, and Charles Street Liquors - port selections are okay but not their emphasis (except for a few very $$$ ports at Charles Street Liquors).
Ideas appreciated, thank you!

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  1. Blanchards, Marty's, and Brookline Liquor Mart all have pretty good selections and are all on the T near the intersection of Harvard and Comm.

    Best value in this realm is Warre's LBV. You can usually get it in the $25-30 range and it really is exceptional port for the money. I don't touch anyone else's LBV, but Warre's is really quite good. Of course there is that 1970 Fonseca I have in the basement...

    27 Replies
    1. re: StriperGuy

      StriperGuy's reccs are good for stores. However Warre is a real "B" house as is Grahmes. For the kind of money you are willing to spend go to an "A" house like Taylor-Fladgate and really impress the person.

      1. re: Winer

        Winer, Do you know offhand if Blanchards, or Marty's or Brookline Liquor Mart carry Taylor-Fladgate? Thank you-

        1. re: jochaima

          Taylor Fladgate is ubiquitous. Everyone mentioned above will have some vintages of Taylor Fladgate.

        2. re: Winer

          I do agree that generally Warre's is considered second tier.

          Have you ever tried a Warre's LBV? I've pretty much tasted everything from every maker out there. If you are not going to go whole hog and spend $100+ on a nicely aged 10 year old plus true vintage port from Taylor or Fonseca the Warre's LBV is a consistently excellent wine and as good as many of the single quinta bottlings from a top house in an off (single quinta) year.

          Also Graham's IS considered amongst the top port houses which includes: Taylor-Fladgate, Fonseca, Graham's, and Quinta do Noval (only the Nacional bottling which is almost considered in a class by itself). Second tier includes: Dow, Cockburn, Warre's and interchangably quite a few others.

          In any given year some of the 2nd tier houses may make a porto on par with one of the top three (again Quina do Noval Nacional stands alone).

          Seriously though for reasonable money never been dissapointed with the Warre's LBV.

          1. re: StriperGuy

            Stripperguy, the giftee in question I'm sure would agree with you -
            He's happily quaffed Warres, Fonseca, and most especially Grahams. I will keep my eyes out for the Warres LBV as a good, dont-need-to-push-the-boat-out port. For this occasion, I want to get something he wouldn't treat himself to. I'm tempted to try for a Taylor Fladgate, or a Quinta do Noval.
            Thank you both again.

            1. re: StriperGuy

              I'm with you StriperGuy. I have been able to find Warre's LBV on sale once in a while at the Wine and Cheese Cask in Somerville for a reasonable price ($19.95 once! - probably more now) and have really enjoyed it.

              1. re: StriperGuy

                I have had the above wines and I (with emphisis on "I") don't consider Grahams to be in the "A" list. I would add to the "A" list Dow and I agree with your note on Nacional

                1. re: Winer

                  Any thoughts on these options:
                  which would you go for?? as a special gift
                  Quinta Do Noval Porto Vintage Nacional-2004 750ml 89.99
                  Taylor Fladgate Port-1985 750ml 125.00
                  Taylor Fladgate Port 750ml 2003 95.00

                  1. re: jochaima

                    Do you want your friend to be able to drink this soon or to save it for a rainy day?

                    1. re: Winer

                      Drink now! Not put in a cellar. Thanks.

                      1. re: jochaima

                        Taylor Fladgate Port-1985 750ml 125.00
                        I had this one about 8 months ago and really enjoyed it. It could still be put away if they choose to but is drinking pretty well now.

                    2. re: jochaima

                      1985 is an okay year, not a great year for Taylor but it is ready to drink now. I have actually drunk 2-3 of those over the years. The price is about right too. Of the lot I would probably buy that.

                      I think you are probably mistaken on the QDNN. That price could NOT be for Nacional, but rather their other porto. I don't think the 2004 has been released yet. And when the Nacional's are released they are usually close to $1,000 a bottle. At Zachy's in NY the 2003 is going for $995:


                      The other two are a coin toss and really not ready to drink for 10-20 years. Port is the one type of wine where young ones really just should not be drunk.

                      1. re: StriperGuy

                        Thank you for all your input!

                        StripperGuy, I got that quesionable listing from:
                        "Quinta Do Noval Porto Vintage Nacional 2004 750ml
                        Sku: 1379677*"
                        Reg. $123.79
                        On Sale $89.99

                        Either it's wrong - or a real steal.

                        Thank you port lovers.

                        1. re: jochaima

                          Pretty much has to be a mis-labeled Quinta Do Noval regular port not the "Nacional" bottling, but who knows?

              2. re: StriperGuy

                I've recently been cruising the port selections at my neighborhood stores (thanks for the various recs, incidentally: all very useful!) and my gut instinct is that Marty's is your best bet of the three StriperGuy mentions. The selection is arguably a bit bigger than the other two, but mostly, I have had much better experiences talking to wine guys at Marty's than I have at either Blanchard's (although their wine guys are good too) or Brookline Liquor Mart, which I personally don't care much for. If you have any further questions, I suspect the guys at Marty's will be able to help.

                1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                  Thank you - I'll plan a trip to that area of Allston.
                  Thank you eveybody.
                  BTW, you lovers of Warres LBV are not alone:
                  (I'm looking through this before I go to the wine shop
                  )"Although the vintage and single quinta wines naturally head up any portfolio, I would encourage any keen advocate of Port to familiarise themselves with Warre's Traditional Late Bottled Vintage. Warre's are one of the few producers of this style of wine which offers a true taste of vintage quality at a reasonable price."

                  1. re: jochaima

                    Way cool that you dug up that info on Warre's LBV. It really is as good or better then most single quinta ports and even on par with many top notch vintage ports I have had (and I have had a few.)

                  2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                    Barmy, I had heard good things about Brookline Liquor Mart. Did you find them unhelpful, snooty, uninformed? Overpriced? Sold you the wrong type of thing?

                    1. re: jochaima

                      Can anybody personally recommend, disrecommend
                      Grahams { B-list or no;) } Vintage Port 1980.
                      at twice the price
                      Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port 1970

                      1. re: jochaima

                        1970 Taylor is one of the holy of holies. I have had it, it is mind blowing! One of the best I have ever drunk.

                        1980 is a totally forgettable vintage, not on anyone's recommended list.

                        1. re: StriperGuy

                          Thanks so much for this. The Grahams is going at around $80, with no description, notes on offer, so I did wondera bit.

                          How wouild you describe the Taylors 1970 - is it a that rich deep plummy raisiny style I'm after?

                          1. re: jochaima

                            If you can find 1970 Taylor for $160 a bottle that is a steal. $250 is a more typical price. Rich, plummy, take a sip, take a long walk, cause that one sip will last you about 15 minutes, plums, grapes, leather, chocolate, tobacco blackberries and much more...............

                      2. re: jochaima

                        Mostly just unhelpful! The few times I've been in there (it's just far enough out of my way that I'm rarely nearby), I've always gotten a distinctly frosty vibe from the staff, as if customers were an annoyance to be tolerated. They have a great wine department, but it makes me not want to shop there, especially when I can go to the Martignetti's on Soldiers Field Road and get really friendly, helpful pointers.

                        1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                          I agree with your assessment of BLM. They are also one of the biggest importers in MA and I sort of feel they rest on their reputation of biggest and best selection and don't really put in any effort unless you are picking up a case or two of Petrus...

                          1. re: StriperGuy

                            I strongly disagree. BLM employees seem a little less obtrusive than at many wine stores, and are more likely to leave you alone, but they have also been very helpful whenever I've talked to them, or whenever I've seen them with other customers. Try thinking of them as the "New Englanders" of wine - not so much unfriendly as reticent. I've never bought Petrus (there or anywhere else), but they have been very friendly and helpful to me. Like anywhere, the service improves as they get to know you, even if you aren't spending the big bucks. As a staff, they are also among the most knowledgeable of the three Allston stores. Their storage is also better than most other area shops, and they don't use poorly placed lights to show off - and cook - their expensive wines, like some other places), so older wines are more likely to be in good conditions. Where the shop stumbles, I think, is in the selection of anything except the established "old guard" wines. And their prices tend to be high. It's a fine place to shop for older Port, though, as long as you don't mind paying extra for the better chance that the bottle will have been stored properly.

                            I think Marty's service is hit or miss, depending on who they happen to be employing this month. They have had some excellent people in the past, and also some who wouldn't know which end of the bottle the cork goes in. The staff is, on the other hand, unfailingly overtly friendly even if they're steering you toward something they know nothing about but has an attractive price tag, a pretty label, or a shelf talker saying "90 Parker Points". The staff at the Marty's in Newton tends to be more knowledgeable on the whole, and also seems to turn over less often - which is not a coincidence.

                            There are some very good people in the Allston Blanchard's, and their selection is good, but you should stick to the wine department managers, as they also have some employees who don't know too much. Prices are generally good.

                            Martignetti's has a pretty good staff, in my experience; I've never had a bad experience there. Their prices seem higher on average than Marty's or Blanchards, but not by much.

                            You'll probably do OK at any of these stores. You can shop at all three (BLM, Marty's and Blanchards) on one T trip, with just a little walking, so you should find something. Be aware that Internet prices for older Port vintages and Boston prices for older Port vintages may be very different.

                            1. re: overproofed

                              I think the spec I initially quoted was presenting me with the worst of both worlds -- extra $$$ because it could say it was"Vintage" - but not enough $$$ to get a particularly good one. Ah well, "the middle stages are appalling"....As I think StriperGuy ( I got your name right - finally! sorry) suggested, certain choice LBVs are often better than many vintages, and lots less $$. Though maybe not as special-seeming as a -

                              I got in touch with some of the shops mentioned here. BLM got right back to me - steered me towards the Grahams 1980, b/c it was (rather non-committally) "a ...good wine," and in my price range (which seemed to be the best thing that could be said of it.) They have Taylor Fladgate 1970, for $150 - - for a half $189 for full looks if not the most budget conscious port option known to man, a pretty good price. (Online prices did come out cheaper, even with shipping, and no tax...this outlet is serious enough to store items properly) has a lot of vintage ports and Patrick there is great ....anyway, I hope Honorable Giftee enjoys the port, which was the object of this excercise. We will toast the Chowhound posters! Thank you one and all.

                              PS The Noval quoted above from winechateau is not in I think it was a mis-listing.

                            2. re: StriperGuy

                              They are NOT even one of the top 20 importers in this state. Once upon a time they were a medium sized importer but have long since sold the Classic Wines arm to the Martignetti Family. Even back then they were not one of the larger players

                    2. My favorite places to buy more unusual and out of the way ports would be DeLuca's on Charles Street (not really good for much of anything else, but they've had an outstanding port selection), Federal Wine and Spirits near Downtown Crossing (both have a wider selection of vintage ports than most other places that I've looked), sometimes Mall Discount Liquors in Fresh Pond (often good prices, but weird and inconsistent selections).

                      I was at Brookline Liquor Mart last night for a wine tasting. I ran into a guy who apparently was a manager there before, had been sick for a while, but has come back and is trying to whip the place back into shape. He seems to know his stuff, he's very interested in helping you if you show up somewhat prepared and especially if you're looking to blow $40-70 on a bottle of port. However, the ports that I saw on offer last night were not overwhelming.

                      Marty's has an astonishing selection of ports. But if BLM is a problem in terms of standoffish attitude, I have to say that every time I've ever been in Marty's, I've been so incredibly turned off by the why-are-you-wasting-my-time attitude of the salesfolk that I have never felt compelled to buy anything.

                      An excellent reference work on port wine is Richard Mayson's book Port and the Douro. It includes fairly extensive blow-by-blow discussions of vintage years and the relative virtues of one house and another, and not tainted by any shill tactics. for a preview and to track down a copy. Well worth the investment if you're interested in getting into the stuff.

                      For my taste, I've liked the Warre's LBV's, but if I'm looking to spend $15-25 for a bottle of port, I have been happiest with a good 10 year tawny such as Delaforce's His Eminence' Choice or the Taylor Fladgate 10 year. Ramos Pinto makes superb 20 year and 30 year tawnies (the latter in particular is an astonishing depth and complexity for some $90 a bottle) but their 10 year is a shade overpriced for the flavor delivered.

                      Good luck!

                      DeLuca's Market
                      11 Charles St, Boston, MA

                      Federal Wine & Spirits
                      29 State St, Boston, MA

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Dr.Jimbob

                        Of course Tawny port is a completely different beast then a vintage port (or an LBV). I have always considered Tawny's much more like a good dessert sherry or a madeira.

                        1. re: StriperGuy

                          Dr Jimbob, thank you - BLM told me somebody came in earlier in the week and cleaned out a section of their Port - it does move quicker around Christmas.
                          StriperGuy, Tawny really is a different animal from Vintage - Colheita is another sub-species, like an aged tawny, nut-brown, almost sherry-like. I seem to be running across it more often, or maybe I'm just more aware of it. We were lucky enough to be in Lisbon for a week (husban'ds work) and went to the Port Institute, really a low-key wine bar that features several port varieties by the glass - a lot of them at least this time around were tawny and colheita rather than vintage or LBV. Cheers and drink well.

                          1. re: jochaima

                            PS DrJimBob, that books looks great. Found it new for $12, will salt away for next gift. Another glowing review of the book:
                            Thank you, everybody!

                            1. re: jochaima

                              Colheita = tawny Port from a single vintage, instead of a blend of vintages.

                              And LBV is certainly a different beast from a Vintage Port (single quinta or not) - and it's worth remembering that there are two distinct styles. LBV is kept in wood longer than vintage, but not as long as an aged tawny or a colheita. The better (unfiltered) ones can show some similarities to a lighter Vintage Port, while the filtered ones make me think of a "high-end Ruby".

                              I'm surprised by the "standoffish" service at Marty's. I've always had the opposite experience. Clueless - yes, more often than not (Allston location). But never standoffish.

                              I agree, Federal is another good place, but not cheap.

                              For a combination of price, selection, and good storage, there really aren't good options in Massachusetts. You can easily find better prices on older Ports in the NY area, for example. I know some people who take the long drive out to someplace near Springfield, MA for wine buying trips - maybe Table and Vine? I don't know if they have a good Port selection, though. Also, if you're driving, the NH specialty liquor stores (like the one in Nashua) occasionally have something at a good price. With the cost of gas, though, it's not worth going too far for one bottle.

                              1. re: overproofed

                                No to repeatedly flog the same horse but...

                                If you taste the Warre's LBV, I promise you will think you are drinking a fairly decent (unfiltered) vintage port, really, I swear. I have drunk at least 5 CASES of port in my life including many of the finest, the stuff is pretty amazing for <$30 bottle.

                        2. Try Federal Wine and Liquor in Downtown Boston, or the Wine and Cheese Cask in Somerville. Wine and Cheese has a decent selection and knowledgeable staff.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: willg

                            At first when a Chowhounder here suggested the label "Taylor Fladgate," I thought it was a label I wasn't familiar with. Americans tend to say "Taylor Fladgate." The British tend to say (and the only port-yakkers I personally know are British) plain old "Taylors." All is explained!
                            Bad news, about Martignetti's closing in separate topic.

                            1. re: jochaima

                              There is a reason some here say Talyor-Fladgate... there is a New York State purveyor of horrible plonk jug wine and crappy fake "New York State" Ports:


                              These wine are largely responsible for giving people in the U.S. the feeling that "Port" and any sweet dessert wine comes in a large jug, is essentially crap, and mostly meant for kids and winos who want a cheap drunk.

                              The 1970s heyday of cheap, sweet, crappy jug wines in the U.S. is thankfully long over. But to play it safe, Taylor Fladgate will not be quickly confused with Taylor NY State plonk.